If you're a dancer who feels compelled to make up your own steps, routines, and interpretations, you might consider pursuing a career in choreography. You can earn a bachelor's or master's degree, which will help you understand dance theory and teaching movement to others, but the most essential component for success is extensive, long-term dance experience.
Choreographers typically are seasoned dancers who design performances that convey moods and ideas using movement or a particular style of dance in staged performances. Most choreographers are dancers who have been training and performing since they were very young. While there are no specific education requirements to become a choreographer, a degree in dance can provide insight into dance styles, dance theory and teaching methods.
|Required Education||No specific requirements; bachelor's or master's degrees in dance are available|
|Other Requirements||Professional dance training and performance experience is essential|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||-3% (for all choreographers)|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$47,800 (for choreographers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Career Information for Choreographers
Choreographers create and direct original dances, in addition to developing interpretations of existing dances. The work of choreographers can be seen in a variety of performance settings, including ballet, opera, musicals, movies, television, music videos and commercials. Like dancers, choreographers must be prepared to face rejection and intermittent periods of work. They may need another type of job skill that they can fall back on during times of unemployment.
Choreographer Job Duties
Through their dance experience, choreographers acquire knowledge of dance theory. They also learn how the body reacts to various movements. They must be able to select the dancers best suited to a particular style of dance, as well as motivate and direct a company of dancers.
A choreographer's creativity may extend to other aspects of the performance. For example, he or she may work with the music director to select music or collaborate with other professionals to enhance such performance elements as lighting, costume and set design.
Salary Information for Choreographers
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $47,800 for choreographers as of 2018. In the same year, the highest-paid ten percent of choreographers earned over $97,620 annually, while the lowest-paid ten percent earned less than $21,340, per BLS figures. The BLS reported that choreographers working with performing arts companies earned a mean wage of $53,940 in 2018.
Choreographer Education Requirements
Choreographers typically have many years of experience at their craft, with their dance training usually beginning at a very young age, according to the BLS. The American Association of Community Theater states that those who want to pursue a career as a choreographer may begin to do so while still performing (www.acct.org).
While a college degree is not required to work as a dancer or choreographer, those interested in this art can pursue a bachelor's degree program in dance to learn about dance styles, dance theory and composition. Master's programs in choreography also are available. These 2-year programs focus on the history of choreography, as well as creating original dances and working with performers. In addition to coursework and performance opportunities, students may have to complete a thesis involving artistic perspective and theories of choreography.
A choreographer can seek work not only with dance companies but also for film, television, and commercials. Although a college degree is less important to a choreographer's success than their experience as a dancer, it can provide a deeper knowledge and understanding of the field that may be helpful. Even successful choreographers can experience gaps in employment, like many other artists, so it's wise to consider secondary employment as well.